Thought that a palatial holiday villa was always going to be out of reach? Not so. With boldness and canny research Rob Acteson discovered how we could all live the dream.

Travelling abroad on a tight budget doesn’t have to mean cutting back on creature comforts. One of the best trips of my life was done on a shoestring, yet we still managed to spend two weeks in a secluded luxury villa, complete with its own tennis court and infinity pool. All you really need is a bit of pluck and a willingness to engage with the locals.

Make an offer – you’ve nothing to lose

Towards the end of another wet summer, we decided we had to get some sun. But money was tight. We wanted to travel immediately so we searched for properties available the following week. All we found was a luxurious six-bedroom villa. Working on the theory that the owner would rather have guests paying something than an empty property, we submitted an offer way below the usual rate, more in hope than expectation. We got a reply the next day accepting our offer of less than a quarter of its usual cost, and spent a blissful fortnight making full use of all the facilities.

The best things in life are free

On only our second day we visited a restaurant popular with the locals and got chatting to Fernando, a fisherman. He insisted that we join him and his family at the beach the following day. Not wanting to arrive empty-handed, we went to the local supermarket and bought some beers and domestic wine and set off for the rendezvous. While we relaxed on the shore, Fernando was waist deep in the ocean, casting his line repeatedly until the tide started to recede. On his way back he poked around in the sand and under rocks, and returned with a big haul of fish and every type of shellfish imaginable. After building a makeshift barbecue and gutting the catch, he set about cooking his delicious haul. We sat eating, drinking and chatting for hours, watched an incredible sunset and had the most wonderful time, all for the price of a few cervezas and a couple of bottles of vino blanco.

So remember, if you’re thinking about getting away but need to make a few cutbacks, be bold, friendly and do things yourself. You’ll be working on your tan before you know it. And if you’re lucky you might just bump into your very own Fernando.

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